It’s clear that liberals don’t get it, choosing instead to live and be ruled by sound bites and easy answers. If the news or a politician claims to be supporting a deserving group such as “the children,” “women,” “diversity” or “veterans” then you must be evil if you do not support governmental action. This kind of thinking or lack of thinking only leads to bigger government and less engaged citizens.

On February 24th, State Senator Dennis Black (D-Newton) announced that he was seeking 100,000 dollars from the public coffers to restore Governor Samuel Merrill’s mausoleum in Woodland Cemetery. On April 2nd I responded to Senator Black’s call saying that restoration should occur but rather than relying on a governmental handout we should show respect for Governor Merrill by voluntarily raising private funds. After my letter Black responded with an op ed of his own saying “As usual, the opposition chose to chastise the project or me with their blogs, cloaked in anonymity, on frivolous spending of “their tax money.”

Governor Merrill was a civil war veteran and served in the New Hampshire legislator prior to becoming Governor of Iowa. He was a strong abolitionist and a Republican. I too have roots in New Hampshire and am a veteran. I reached out and received very favorable responses from my New Hampshire connections. I approached and received very strong interest from the Des Moines Pioneer Club, a long standing civic organization concerned with history and tradition here in town, a group that my family has been members of for years. My grandfather (a lifelong Democrat) and I worked with others to define the project, determine the funds needed and the steps necessary to fulfill the task.

Seeing our leg work come together, we were ready to form the trust, start collecting checks and publicizing the fund raising opportunity. We called Woodland Cemetery to kick this off and were told “Senator Black already took care of everything” so our efforts were not needed.

I decided to respond to Senator Black in an op ed published April 5th and call out his actions, asserting that I am not “cloaked in anonymity” as he claimed but instead proudly signed my name twice. Mike Rowley responded me saying “let the state keep its promise to veterans and their families to care for them now and forever.” I assert it is we as people that have a duty to support AND honor our veterans.

Being a Marine combat veteran I take our responsibility to other veterans seriously. At the Beaverdale VFW, you will see three Cutlers on the wall, myself, my dad and my grandpa. We paid to be up there by serving in three different wars, returning to the same VFW. I work with other returning combat vets weekly. Below is a photo of me giving a speech with Governor Brandsted about PTSD and other Veteran’s issues at the opening of the Des Moines Vet’s Center.

The issue isn’t about “veterans” graves, it’s about being respectful of what the veteran fought for, liberty. Two time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Butler is respectfully interned in Pennsylvania . General Lewis (Chesty) Puller, the man that lead the Marine Corps at the Chosin Reservoir when Chinese attacked in waves and figure all Marines love is respectfully buried in Virginia. Surely if anyone is deserving of a grand memorial, these two men would be first. Yet as you can see, if a tree fell on either of these grave sites, volunteers could take care of any damage in an afternoon.

Out here in West Des Moines Alfred Hudgell is interned in Jordan Cemetery next to a tree. Alfred died December 7th 1941 at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Tennessee. I have removed branches from that tree that fell on Hudgell’s site after storms and Iowa winters. I could have just waited for West Des Moines Parks and Recreation who maintains the cemetery to “take care of it” but instead I pay respect, as an American, and I honor him by doing it myself. The day that tree falls down I will be out there, saw in hand, taking care of it.

Governor Merrill’s family decided long ago to provide a tribute to him in Woodland, different than the Butler, Puller or Hudgell families did for their loved ones. I respect the Merrill’s decision and worked to continue their efforts. I ask you though, wouldn’t voluntary contributions by those willing and able to be a much greater honor to a man that served liberating people as a Republican rather forcing all Iowa tax payers to pay to repair the fine Vermont marble that adorns his final resting place? Isn’t that what we do here in America any more—don’t we personally fulfill our civic duties or have we decided out outsource it to government? Senator Black caused Governor Merrill become a ward and burden of the state rather than allowing we the citizens to display the honor desired.

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